Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Appointment of new hospital parking contractor delayed

Appointment of new hospital parking contractor delayed

A PARKING enforcement firm will continue to operate at Townlands Memorial Hospital in Henley in the New Year despite being effectively sacked four months ago.

Smart Parking will be replaced when a contractor is appointed to oversee NHS car parks across the country. However, the tendering process is taking longer than expected.

The company had faced repeated calls to be sacked from Townlands following scores of complaints from patients about unfair fines, as highlighted by the Henley Standard’s Not Very Smart Parking campaign.

Smart had already lost its contract to monitor the car park for the neighbouring Bell and Hart surgeries following scores of similar complaints.

Then in August the then health minister Stephen Barclay announced that a new nationwide contractor would be appointed and Townlands would be transferred to it “in due course”.

Now NHS Property Services says the new operator will not be in place until next month at the earliest.

A spokesman said: “We are working to complete the process to implement a new, fit-for-purpose car parking management system that works for everyone as soon as is practically possible.”

Henley town councillor Ian Reissmann, who chairs the Townlands Steering Group, said he had met NHS Property Services director Tony Griffiths last month and was told a new provider would be agreed before the end of this year.

He said: “It does seem that things are moving very slowly but it’s in everyone’s interests that there is a fair and proper scheme to manage the site.”

Cllr Reissmann said NHS Property Service had promised that residents would be consulted on what type of monitoring should take place at Townlands.

He said: “They made it very clear to me that there wouldn’t be a scheme with the opportunity for the company to keep fines. They will produce preliminary options and come to us about whether or not it will work. There is still the question of whether or not charges are appropriate — that’s something that produces mixed feelings.”

Smart Parking uses automatic number plate recognition cameras to log vehicles entering and leaving the hospital car park and visitors have to enter their car registration details using a keypad at reception to receive free parking and there is meant to be a 20-minute grace period.

But many patients, some of them elderly, were issued with parking fines of up to £160 despite following the rules.

Smart was fired from a similar arrangement at Aldershot Centre for Health in May.

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